Damien Delaney has been a key player to Palace’s backline this season, helping the team to close-out wins against the top four, including Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as draws against Manchester United and Everton.
Missing only a handful of games due to injury, the centre-back says the club has been rejuvenated under manager Alan Pardew, and believes their form has been a continuation from the second half of last season.
“When the Gaffer took over we went on a pretty good run and it feels like we’ve started this season in the same vein. He’s put confidence into certain players who were a bit lacking, and he’s taken the shackles off in the way we play. The coaching staff who have come in, and the quality that was added in January and during the summer has brought a lot of positivity and we’ve improved a lot as a team.”
Stand-out performances by Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha have been talking points of late, and Delaney says both players have matured over the last year.
“The consistency that Wilf and Yannick are now showing is what we’ve been looking for because they’ve always had it - Wilf has been brilliant this year and Yannick at times has been unplayable. I think the pair of them are maturing as people as well as footballers. It is difficult to be a professional day-in-day-out but I think they’re learning that side of the game, and they both work exceptionally hard.”
Although their home form has struggled this season, Delaney says it’s a reflection of teams now viewing Palace as a ‘reasonable side’, and setting themselves up not to be beaten when visiting Selhurst Park.
“Teams have started to sit in and block up the spaces that our creative players need to play which makes it difficult for us. But that’s part of our next revolution as a team - to start moving teams around like the top teams, and try to create the spaces as opposed to just being given them.”
Looking ahead to the Christmas fixtures, Palace face tough away trips to Stoke and Bournemouth, who have both produced surprise results in a 2-0 and 1-0 victory over Man City and Chelsea respectively. But the centre-back says the Eagles have a points target that they’ll be hoping to achieve, giving them the impetus to push on in the New Year.
“Our next four games are all against difficult teams, but if we are at it on the day we’ll pick up points. We want to put a run together and end up finishing the season as high as possible, but we’re well aware of the effort that is required and we’re not under any illusions or getting carried away.”